Appleton Area School District to begin school year virtually

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 8:14 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - The Appleton Area School Board has unanimously voted to change the reopening plan for the school year.

On Wednesday evening, the board voted to begin school virtually, a major change from the original plan.

The original plan had students in fourth grade and under attending school five days a week, while students in fifth grade and above would attend in-person classes for two days a week and three days of online classes, unless they opted out of in-person classes.

The board’s vote comes just days after a meeting held with parents and teachers regarding the plan of in-person classes, where a large number of teachers expressed concern about in-person classroom instruction and the lack of safety protocols in place.

One reason for the decision reached Wednesday focused on the number of students wishing to take in-person classes.

While it was predicted that 30 - 40% would opt out, a recent survey showed only 20% of elementary students would, and even less older students, making it a challenge for the district to accommodate for social distancing.

“We clearly understand the significance and the vital importance of having our students attend school in person. We all know that, and we are committed to offering in-person learning as soon as it is safely possible to do so,” said Appleton Area School District Superintendent Judy Baseman.

In addition, the district says it’s facing a 45% reduction in the number of substitute teachers because of the pandemic.

Board members admitted that this will be challenging for parents.

“My husband works full-time and I am gone. So I am wondering how this is going to work and I would also say at a certain point last spring we had to take a pause,” said Board Member Leah Olson.

“I was really voting for this idea of a model that was flexible and I want to echo what Ben just said a few minutes about being able to pivot, and being able to be flexible, through this whole pandemic. That’s unfortunately, the way it’s going to be,” said fellow Board Member Gary Jahnke.

District officials say they’ll evaluate the situation on a weekly basis in order to determine when it’s okay to allow students back in buildings.

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